KEY NOTE ADDRESS BY HER EXCELLENCY ARABINRIN BETTY ANYANWU-AKEREDOLU AT THE STAKEHOLDERS MEETING ON 63RD SESSION OF UN COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN (UNCSW63) HELD AT AKURE, ONDO STATE ON 4TH APRIL, 2019.
2. To base my address on my experience at the UNCSW63
3. UNCSW63 was an event that brought together participants from diverse backgrounds to share their experiences and see how we could collectively improve our strides for gender equality.
This year’s 63rd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63), the UN’s largest gathering on gender equality, took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 11 – 22 March 2019. It focused on the theme, “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”.
4. A first-timer. Amazing experience and an eye-opener: Nigerians everywhere but not together due to lack of coordination. Present were: minister for women affairs, at least 5 first ladies of different states attended but I only met Mrs. Ambode on the queue. No preferential treatment for first lady there o! it was a very long queue. Spent over one hour before entering the registration room. While in the queue on the street i could chat on my whatsapp through free Wifi. Had one on one interaction with many Nigerian NGOs who attended my two presentations and at the cafeteria. The town hall with Sec. Gen. where countries with cohesion sang together brought to the fore the need for some coordination among Nigeria delegates at subsequent UN CSW.
5. Recommendation: Fed. Ministry of Women Affairs should have a desk officer provided with a computer/laptop, create a portal on Federal ministry of Women Affairs website for participants to submit a biosketch. Information is shared and those who are attending network among themselves, know their levels of participation- e.g. presentations at the general assembly or side events. So we get prepared and support each at such international forum. I hope to communicate my view to the ministry. In addition, it would be nice for the Nigerian embassy to host Nigerian participants to a cocktail or dinner. That’s what other countries do to their nationals which elicits a sense of pride and patriotism. I expect no less from our embassies. Look forward to a coordinated Nigerian delegation to UNCSW64. Nigerians are there every year in large numbers. Lagos state delegation has been going for over 5 years with the state sponsoring civil servants and women led NGOs. Learned that the Lagos delegation at UNCSW63 could be up to 30 led by their 1st lady. I didn’t waste time telling Arakunrin what I was seeing. Interestingly, I am aware that participants from Ondo State had participated in this meeting in the past but failed to share their experiences publicly.
6. My advice: is that when we have the rare privilege to attend such international meetings like UNCSW, and having been sponsored by government, we owe this country a duty to share information and knowledge for the benefit of the country and in the case of CSW, for the advancement of our women. The highest most civil servants do is to write a report, with file dumped on shelf and contents are never disseminated. A forum such as this where experiences and knowledge are shared after participating at international meetings must be encouraged and even made compulsory. An undertaking to share experience and knowledge must be signed before travelling is approved.
7. # My take home from UNCSW63:
7.1. On gender violence:
* UN women created a committee of experts on sexual harassment to deal directly with such cases thereby bypassing the bureaucratic bottleneck of the system
*The #metoo movement has given women a voice globally to kick against sexual harassment especially at work places
* “Boys will always be boys” is no longer acceptable
* Let’s stop blaming the victim of rape
* Our society must to learn to accept NO! when a girl says NO! to sexual advances.
* Mothers must review how we raise our sons to respect and appreciate womanhood 7.2. On menstrual hygiene:
*Provision of WASH facilities in school is an essential commodity. The lack of this infrastructure negatively impacts on the Girl-child education because she skips classes during her menses.
*Teenagers from poor families cannot afford sanitary pads. I did tweet: “Condoms are given free of charge. Sanitary pads are not. What is #OurPriorityInNigeria”.
7.3. On ICT & Solar Technology:
* ICT is gender neutral. Let’s encourage STEM in our girls and groom them to become technology leaders. It is doable. We have proved that in Ondo State with BEMORE summer Bootcamp 4 Girls Naija. We have proved that girls can #BEMORE than what the society ascribes them to be. We have measurable outcomes: #BEMORE girl Marvelous Jegede a 14 year school girl from Arigidi successfully installed solar panels to light up her home after two years in darkness. #BEMORE girl Tolu Ehinmosan former student of Stella Maris Okitipupa now first year student of computer engineering at Unilag built solar oven which she donated to the home economics dept of her school. She represented Ondo State with the nomination of our Solar for girls initiative at the Global Energy Awards held in Iran.
* Presently, four of #BEMORE girls present at this meeting (please stand up for recognition) are being groomed to compete for the Tec novation challenge holding at Silicone valley, California, USA. They are developing an app to solve identified problem in their environment a problem under the tutelage of our dependable partner Seed4DEV represented here by Kitan David. I wish them well.
7.4 . On power balance at home, work and in governance
* My favourite quote “Power is not given, power is taken” :UN. Sec. Gen.
* Female heads of states shared their experiences. Eastern Europe has a fair share of Presidents and Prime ministers.
*That we need more women at the decision making tables cannot be overemphasized
*Here in Nigeria, we are embarrassingly too few considering our population and the fact that more women come out to vote. So we have the voting power. Let’s use it and put more women in the legislative houses and in position of authority.
7.5 . On economic empowerment :
* Economic empowerment brings about knowledge, financial stability and self – worth and gives a woman confidence. Concerted effort by government to encourage women engage in productive ventures that are women friendly such as farming and agro allied business, cottage industries, trading, ICT and other skills acquisitions relevant to their immediate environment. Create access to micro credit. FOWOSO is paving the way. The impact is evidence based with measurable outcomes. Empowered over 2000 women and youth. Free medical services at all FOWOSO empowerment outreaches together with Breast Cancer awareness to over 20,000 people in the 18 local governments’ areas.
Ondo State government has been a dependable ally in this regard and greatly appreciated for its supportive role.
7.6. Backward never: Let me reiterate here that any government that is serious about uplifting her women from obscurity, ignorance and poverty must endeavour to provide the opportunity for them to participate in the annual UNCSW. It is a global gathering like no other gathering of women. The exposure was fantastic. You need to experience the moment. Ondo State women must not be left behind. Thank you.